By hiring better-quality employees, your dealership — and your customers — benefit in the long run. Top-quality employees provide a better customer experience, allowing you to inspire repeat customers, referrals and a positive online reputation.
Customer experience is increasingly the differentiator between high- and low-performing companies. Especially in the case of new-car dealerships, competition for the same target customers has never been stronger. Meanwhile, it’s increasingly difficult for dealerships to remain competitive based on a vehicle’s price tag alone — your customers are expert researchers, so they’ll eventually find the dealer with the lowest cost cutting into your margins and impacting your monthly revenue. However, price alone doesn’t guarantees happy, loyal customers.
Today’s customer experience has significant impact on overall customer satisfaction, which ultimately influences your dealership’s performance and success.
What Does Customer Experience Mean for Your Dealership?
Customer experience is a cumulative measurement — the sum of all interactions your customer has with your business. This relationship is ongoing and can therefore result in a dynamic experience that goes on for several years. The total experience is defined by a number of micro-transactions.
In the case of a car buyer or seller, the customer experience is often based around the transaction. Yet, the actual experience of purchasing a vehicle encompasses multiple events, including researching online, getting advice from friends and colleagues, and speaking with sales reps or product specialists. Each interaction with your brand is called a touch point. They range from things you can control, such as your Website, ads and employees, to elements that can’t control, like independent media coverage. Meanwhile, there are touch points you can influence, including customer review sites, word of mouth and earned media. Combined, these touch points compose your dealership’s customer experience.
The Customer Relationship Lifecycle When you break down customer relationships from a broad perspective, it usually ends up looking something like this:
In today’s digitally driven world, many customers may go through the first stages independent of any interaction with your employees. Therefore, your Website, manufacturer’s Websites and review sites are going to have a disproportionate influence on the customer experience at this stage. They’ll also be doing research almost concurrently with the discovery stage once they pin down a few vehicle models that interest them.
However, they’ll inevitably be drawn to your dealership to engage in hands-on research. It’s at this point that your customer-facing staff plays a huge role in whether the customer purchases their vehicle from you or your competitor down the road.
Better Employees, Better Customer Experience
When you’re measuring customer experience, there tends to be an unfortunate effect that relates to the first and last interaction at each stage of the customer relationships lifecycle. It stems from the psychological concept called the “serial position effect.” Customers often focus on — and are more capable of remembering — the first and last touch point. When your employees understand this fact, they’ll understand that good first impressions aren’t just a one-time opportunity but events that lay the foundation of a customer’s remembered experience and impression of your dealership.
The first time your product specialist answers a question about a vehicle that a customer shows visible interest in is likely going to stick out in the customer’s mind. Do they convey their expertise with a precise response, or are they left scrambling, desperately using their iPad to find an approximate answer? Are they willing to go the extra mile to find out information, or are they satisfied with the bare minimum?
The other side of the equation aligns with the last touch during a given stage. If you have employees who effectively convey your dealership’s culture by putting customer needs first, you’re far more likely to inspire that person in the research phase to come back when they’re ready to make their purchasing decision. And the interaction begins again, meaning you cannot relent on providing an exceptional experience — no matter how close to signing the contract you think they are. Your employees must begin and end on a consistently positive note to ensure your new customer remains happy with his or her decision. This extends to your service center staff, follow-up emails and all channels you use to keep car buyers engaged with your dealership.
The Effect of Satisfied Customers
With rock-star employees, you put your dealership in a far better position to perform because they advocate your company’s mission to provide extraordinary customer experiences. Customers want to feel the dealership has their best interests at heart and do everything possible to meet or exceed expectations. The resulting customer is far more inclined to recommend your dealership to others, post positive reviews on sites like Yelp or social media and ultimately return in the event of a new vehicle purchase.
Discovering the type of talent that will allow you to get to this point begins with a strategic approach to hiring. A centralized approach — one that gives dealerships control over the entire hiring process, beginning from job descriptions to managing job boards to testing applicants for specific capabilities and characteristics, and running background checks — is most beneficial. Dealers with a process-driven approach are much more likely to find and hire quality candidates.
Customer experience is an increasingly critical component of your dealership’s performance — and your employees have a huge hand in shaping these experiences.